Imagine a material, rich with history. A material fit for the entrances to a pharoah’s tomb. A material the Chinese have made furniture out of for over 1000 years. A material the greatest european empire, the ancient Romans, purportedly used to make their shields lightweight yet strong.
Now imagine I tell you this wonderous substance is plywood. Yes, plywood.
“Now, Bob, yesterday you were telling us of the evils of oak and walnut, and here you are raving about plywood. Have you been hitting the contact cement a bit hard lately?”
“Bob, have you gone and lost your damned mind! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ?”
Last time I criticized the over usage of walnut and oak (much to the dismay of all you walnut lovers out there, which I must say, I’m shocked how many of you love the walnut but hate the oak! ), and now I’m going to tell you that plywood is FANTASTIC for adding a bit of creativity to your work.
Plywood is, of course, a manufactured wood product made by laminating layers of wood cross grain. This gives it some pretty sweet properties. I, personally love the minimized warping and movement, as it makes an AMAZING substrate for lamination when I work with veneers. (Actually, it’s virtually the only thing I would choose when it comes to lamination, and almost never use solid woods for this reason).
It’s also relatively lightweight for its strength, and strong for it’s light weight, which can make it great for a number of projects. When thickness counts, you can sometimes get away with a NICE piece of plywood where a solid wood might fail along the grain. Conversely, if you’re looking for something fairly strong, but want it lighter weight, 1” plywood will actually give you a fair bit more strength than some other 1” thick boards. And that strength is more uniform throughout the piece.
It’s also fun to play with (and scrollsawers love it too) because it splits far less at its edges and takes to cutting curves like nothing else.
Another great advantage is it’s very standard (large) size and low price. with some creativity, a single $50, 4’x8’x1” sheet can be turned into a dining table. Or a bench. Or two bookcases. Or a pair of accent tables. You can’t do that with solid boards.
It’s also very green. Because the wood is “shaved” off in rolls, rather than cut into boards, very minimal waste is created via cutoffs (really bad in quartersawing and still a problem with flatsawing). That means less wasted wood.
Another great advantage is how easily it can be bent and molded. (as some of our fellow LJs can show )
In fact, rather than go on about plywood, check out a few projects some other LJ’s have done in the past:
Tables and countertops:
Used for boxes:
and even just as splines:
I admit, plywood is a pretty dull and no frills product….
but as you can see, it offers A LOT in ways of creativity.
And that’s what the point to this and the last blog entry: Be creative. Step outside of your usual materials. See what else is available.
Next time: I’ll post something about matching species to projects… If I remember.